A special spud from a French island
There are many things within the world of fine dining that we rightly think of as luxuries—truffles, champagne, lobster, a good steak—but ordinarily speaking, potatoes don’t top the list of pay day treats. Unless you’ve tried Noirmoutier potatoes, that is.
The Noirmoutier is one of the finest spuds available, hailed by chefs and keen amateurs alike as the “caviar of the potato world”. As with all good quality produce, while the proof is in the eating, the real evidence of its worth is in the making.
Much like our beloved Jersey royals, these rare tubers are the proud produce of a very specific area: Nourmoutier, a small island off the coast of Brittany. “The main factor, as with any potato, is the soil in which they are grown,” says Sam at Turnips, which has had Noirmoutiers in for a few weeks now.
The sea salt-imbued rain and sandy, algae-rich soil of L’ile Noirmoutier lends this baby veg a distinctly sweet, saline, nutty flavour. “The ones we have at the stall are the real deal. They cannot be replicated elsewhere, because the soil is so specific. All those nutrients and minerals give it an inimitable flavour.”
The potatoes are grown on a small strip of less than 50 square metres of land, picked one by one by hand after 90 days’ maturation, usually for a single week in May. Only around 100 tonnes of these special spuds are produced a year—to put that in perspective, Jersey royals are produced on a scale of around 30-40,000 tonnes per year.
“They have a pleasing, round shape with fine skin that almost flakes,” Sam continues. This delicate casing should be treated with care when it comes to preparing them for the pan. “Most people like to keep the skin on—that’s where all the flavour is. Just give them a gentle rub to brush off any dirt, being careful not to scrub too hard or the skin will come off and they’ll go to mush when cooked.”
Slathered in butter
Though they are certainly on the luxury side of the spud spectrum, you needn’t be fearful of cooking them. “While the skin is delicate, they are quite robust, so you can boil or steam them in the usual way,” reassures Sam. “Of course, as with any new potato, they’re best appreciated when simply slathered in butter.”
Hayden Groves is in agreement. “They are the most expensive potatoes in the world, so treat them simply and with the utmost respect. Using them in the same way you would the more familiar Jersey royals is a good place to start, if you’re not sure what to do with them.”
If you’re looking for a way of jazzing them up, take a leaf out of Beca Lyne-Pirkis’s book at her recent demonstration kitchen and combine them with chives, capers and hard-boiled eggs and a lemon, rapeseed oil and Dijon mustard dressing.
A family favourite
“This recipe was inspired by my aunt Irene’s potato salad, a family favourite during the summer months—especially if we have a barbecue!” she enthuses. “This is a great way of dressing the potatoes without overpowering them. When new potatoes are in season, you don’t want to mess with them. Let their lovely flavour shine through.”